Sunday, May 15, 2011

What to do at the Muhlenberg Campus

The Muhlenberg campus is an opportunity waiting to happen. Many unmet health and social needs of Plainfield residents can be addressed by concentrating resources at the Muhlenberg campus. The use of the campus must be defined so the interests of the community are first and foremost and the campus is not merely an opportunity for a few developers.

Here are just some services that could be provided to residents at Muhlenberg:

* Veterans outpatient services and support groups (freeing up more Monarch space for seniors).

* Relocation of social services from downtown retail/office locations to the campus.

* Specialized nursing home beds for people suffering from dementia/Alzheimers.

* Expansion of Neighborhood Health Services (aka Plainfield Health Center) services.

* New partnerships for career preparation in health related professions with Plainfield Public Schools, Union County College, Kean U, UMDNJ.

* The city could rent space or get free rent for the health department (freeing up space in city offices).

* A priority would be to maximize the number of specialized inpatient beds. Mental health inpatient beds were lost and are still needed. A birthing center staffed by nurse/midwifes and backed up by doctors is a definite need.

Solaris spends several million dollars annually for property maintenance. There is pressure to do something and that something must be driven by community interests, not outside interests.

There are two challenges in recreating Muhlenberg. The first is financial. There has to be enough operating dollars flowing through to support the services provided. We should think about this the way a developer plans a shopping mall: a few anchor tenants and then more smaller rentals to fill out the space. Not all the eggs in one basket. So if one service provider goes away, the campus is still viable. This is especially important in the healthcare industry as it faces major changes due to advances in medical research and technology as well as affordability challenges.

The second challenge is political. I recently asked a Solaris administrator what they are doing about Muhlenberg and what they need from the city to move forward. The answer was not money or zoing changes. It was "the city needs to define what it wants at the Muhlenberg campus so interested parties don't have to fear resistance and attack when they advance their plans."

Plainfield continues to grieve a beloved institution that was an economic engine and saved lives at the same time. It's time to look forward to create a new campus that can improve the health and wellness of residents, create jobs and provide health related career opportunities for young people.


Bob said...

Thank you Cory. This is a very sensible approach and I'm sad that our administration has not given this much thought or pur forward initiatives. I hope we can move forward on this without hinderance from those who are merely interested in their own gains and not those of the citizens of Plainfield.

Anonymous said...

Your recomendation have merit but has anyone polled the homeowners surrounding the Muhlenberg area about their concerns.

Jenn said...

Let me say upfront that I do not know enough about Muhlenberg campus, but after reading this post, it made me think back to when I was growing up in Stony Point, NY, and played CYO basketball. We would occasionally practice at the gym in the hall at Letchworth Village, an old mental institution that has since been abandoned or converted, I believe, into parts of Patriot Hills golf club (although don't quote me on that latter part). Here's a link to some pictures:

Anonymous said...

Summit Medical Group would be a perfect fit.

My fear is that the property will turn into Muhlenburg Condos with Jerry Green developers in tow.

Anonymous said...

Cory, remember that this is a residential neighborhood. Some of the services you are proposing can/may infringe on the quality of life for the many homeowners in the surrounding areas.

Area Homeowner!

Cory Storch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cory Storch said...

To area homeowner: you make a good point and having a public dialogue about the future of the Muhlenberg campus would be the way to prevent strictly outside interests from having their way. That was why we did the vision study for transit oriented dvelopment around the train stations. (my previous post (deleted) had a typo).